Volunteer Abroad

9 Peace Corps Alternatives to Inspire You to Volunteer Abroad

Anna Pedersen

Anna is a freelance writer and editor, currently based in Portland, Oregon. She has traveled to 40+ countries, lived on four continents, and called the United Arab Emirates home for over two years.

If you've thought about joining the Peace Corps, you're not alone. More than 230,000 Americans have served in the Peace Corps, helping communities across the globe in sectors as varied as education, health, youth development, environmental conservation, and more.

However, the Peace Corps isn't right for everyone. It requires a serious commitment of two years and a lot of hard work. Many people decide that the Peace Corps isn't the best option for them due to the time commitment, the lengthy application process, or the available positions. Even people who follow through with the application process may come to find that they can't pass the medical exams or aren't accepted into the program. There are lots of reasons why people eventually decide not to join, and there's nothing wrong with any of them!

Again, the Peace Corps isn't for everyone, but you might still want to volunteer abroad and wonder what your options are.

Alternatives to the Peace Corps

Luckily, the Peace Corps is far from your only option. When it comes down to it, the Peace Corps is about cultural connection and understanding; it's about building meaningful relationships in communities around the world and setting those communities up for success moving forward. These same goals can be achieved through a number of different volunteer abroad programs, over different time frames, in different countries around the world.

Some programs require you to commit to a year, while others only require a week or two. With all of these options, you're bound to find one that's the perfect fit for you. Here are some of our favorites.

1. GVI

One of the coolest things about GVI is their diverse program offerings. Whether you're interested in marine conservation, education, sustainable development, public health, women's empowerment, or everything in between, there is a program for you! Additionally, their programs run from one week to a year or more, so regardless of how much time you have to commit, you're sure to be able to fit this into your schedule. They even have online programs which offer participants maximum flexibility.

  • Eligibility requirements: No prior expertise or training required
  • Minimum commitment: One week or more
  • See all of GVI's programs

2. SAVE Volunteering

When it comes to the Peace Corps, nearly 45% of all volunteers are placed on the African continent, so if you're thinking of going to one of these 54 countries you're not alone! SAVE Volunteering, headquartered in South Africa, places volunteers throughout the continent, in South Africa, Ghana, Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi, Namibia and Kenya. Their volunteers work in education, wildlife conservation, community development, construction, and more. And as they put it, "Stay for two weeks, two months or two years."

3. Fuze Ecoteer Outdoor Adventures

If you find yourself most interested in working in environmental conservation, then Fuze Ecoteer Outdoor Adventures might have a program for you. Their mission is to "connect people with nature" and they offer placements in environmental conservation in Malaysia. These programs are great for folks who have busy schedules and don't have too much time to commit to volunteering, as they run from one to four weeks.

  • Eligibility requirements: No prior expertise or training required for most programs, though the placements that involve diving will have a longer minimum time commitment if you are not already a qualified diver.
  • Minimum commitment: One to four weeks; minimum of two weeks for non-qualified divers in certain programs
  • See all of Fuze Ecoteer Outdoor Adventures's programs

4. Blue Ventures

If like me you love Planet Earth, you'll be impressed to know that David Attenborough has given Blue Ventures his stamp of approval. This conservation organization is dedicated to more than superficial action and instead works to have an ethical impact on communities by increasing food security and economic opportunity. As a volunteer, you'll have three conservation expedition programs to choose from in Madagascar, Belize, or Timor-Leste. Whether you're a pro SCUBA diver or a total novice, you'll receive the training you need to have a meaningful impact.

  • Eligibility requirements: No prior experience required, though if you are not PADI certified, part of your program time will be dedicated to dive training rather than research
  • Minimum commitment: One to 12 weeks
  • See all of Blue Ventures's programs

5. International Volunteer HQ

IVHQ has placed over 100,000 volunteers in communities around the world since their inception in 2007, so they definitely are experts in their field. They offer projects that run the gamut from elderly care to NGO support to refugee support, and everything in between. These projects take place in over 50 destinations around the globe, so your options are truly expansive. This is another great option for folks with busier schedules as their programs start at just one week and can run up to 24 weeks or more.

  • Eligibility requirements: Participants must be fluent in English; medical and healthcare placements may require prior training and certification in the field
  • Minimum commitment: One week or more
  • See all of IVHQ's programs

6. Pacific Discovery

Pacific Discovery offers immersive service-learning trips across the globe for summer and semester-long adventures. These experiential educational opportunities are focused on six core components: educational travel, service learning, cultural and language immersion, sustainable adventure travel, outdoors and wilderness exploration, personal and leadership development. Their programs run four or 10 weeks and have the option for independent extension. These projects are ideal for students or recent grads who are interested in traveling in a more structured environment.

  • Eligibility requirements: Participants must be between the ages of 18-24
  • Minimum commitment: Four or 10 week options, with the possibility of independent extension
  • See all of Pacific Discovery's programs

7. DAKTARI Bush School and Wildlife Orphanage

DAKTARI, located in the South African bush near Kruger National Park, aims to "educate and inspire children to value their environment and stimulate community projects". As a volunteer, you would work with local children in environmental education while also caring for animals in the orphanage. Both short and long-term positions are available, allowing most volunteers to find an option that suits their needs.

  • Eligibility requirements: No prior experience necessary
  • Minimum commitment: One to eight weeks for short-term placements or nine to 12 months for long-term
  • See all of DAKTARI's programs

8. Amigos de las Americas

When you volunteer with Amigos de las Americas, you'll have the opportunity to meaningfully immerse yourself in Latin America. Whether you volunteer in Uruguay or Ecuador, you'll have the opportunity to live with a host family and learn Spanish while participating in service-learning activities. You could be helping to build farms, produce artisan goods, work on micro-lending projects, or even start up a hair salon. These projects run for summer, semester, and full year terms.

9. VIA Global Community Fellow

VIA Programs offers a Global Community Fellowship for both young and established professionals who are interested in working in community development, international communication, peace and conflict resolution, curriculum development, and more in Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam. They offer both education posts and NGO posts. These long-term commitments are a great alternative to Peace Corps and offer similarly immersive experiences.

There's a Program for Everyone

Finally, don't discount the value of volunteering in your own backyard. Whether it's volunteering with a local organization or working with federally-funded programs like Americorps or Teach for America, volunteering domestically can have a very meaningful impact as well.

Whether you decide to do a volunteer vacation or commit for life, know that there are plenty of options for everyone who is interested in making an impact through service, whether at home or overseas.

This post was originally published in May 2011, and was updated in December 2015, October 2018, and June 2020.

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